#2: No PDC Needed Study Group - The Zones
It’s already the 13th of May! Some of you picked a permaculture project and many more of you have been lurking and waiting for more information. Before we talk about today’s topic, the Zones, I want to show you how my own project is going. Remember my sad duck area? Significant progress has been made.
First there was cleanup and some dirt moved around the bathtub:
Then today we began building the duck house:
Looks better already! The next step is to finish the duck house, and then I’m going to create some very small hugelkultur beds around the perimeter to grow flowers and plants to attract bugs for the ducks to eat. Then I’ll introduce duckweed to the bathtub and it should be pretty much ready for ducks.
So let’s get down to the topic of the day - Zones. In permaculture design, zones are the key to being organized. Basically, your property is divided into areas based on how often you have to go and work there, and partly based on topography. In a sustainable lifestyle, you have to do a lot more work. It’s inevitably less convenient to grow your own food and make the things you need, creating more labor for you and taking up your time. When you start to do it, you begin to realize that you can save SO much time and work by finding little ways to be more efficient. For example, we have plastic covers over our 14 low tunnels held down with hundreds of sandbags. Every time we water they have to be moved to the side which takes FOREVER. Originally we uncovered one row at a time, but we realized that we could uncover two at a time if we uncoverd them facing each other. This cut our time down by half. We later found that because of the volume of PVC we ended up buying over the long term, we could have afforded full greenhouses which don’t need to be uncovered. This was a design flaw on our part that has used up hundreds of hours of time and worn us out.
So, zones help you prevent design flaws like this and make being sustainable and self-sufficient dramatically easier. Here are the five zones:
Zone 0 - the house. This is where you spend the most time, so it includes the greenhouse attached to your house and the shade patio/outdoor kitchen.
Zone 1 - the garden right by the house and other things you use daily. This is the garden where you will spend the bulk of your time, and it should be right outside your door so you can pick from it all the time. This zone might also have a tool shed, small pond and some fruit trees depending on how big your property is. Water collection would help facilitate watering the garden.
Zone 2 - this is the area just beyond the perimeter of your kitchen garden. It is where you would keep your compost, and grow staples like potatoes or grains. You would keep chickens or ducks here. In the city this is probably as far as your property would extend.
Zone 3 - this is the area that you don’t have to go quite as often because it’s further away. The gardens here would be perennials, living mulches, windbreaks and firebreaks. You might keep some goats out here, and beehives. If you are growing a cash crop, this is where you would do it. It’s an area that you grow stuff in, but only stuff that uses up lots of space and takes less daily attention.
Zone 4 - this is your rural woodlot, edible forest garden, pig foraging, large pond area. This is where you can develop large tree plantings and long term projects.
Zone 5 - this is the wilderness. Even a small property should have a Zone 5, a small area that you simply allow to return to its natural state. It’s difficult to just not mess with it, but that’s the goal. This area helps you by attracting beneficial insects and allowing wild creatures a safe harbor rather than foraging in your garden.
Some people are a little confused about the difference between Zone 1 and 2. Zone 1 is really the perimeter of your house and only spans the space it takes to throw on some flip flops and meander through in five minutes. It should be as packed with edible plants as possible, and the more your grow here in every spare inch, the more time and effort you will save. This garden should be well mulched between plants and on pathways. Zone 2 is where the stinky stuff goes. On a small lot, you would grow some fruit trees here, possibly a hedge, and some edible shrubs like raspberries. This area would be mulched too, but everything is bigger and more spread out so it takes less attention to detail.
So that’s it. The Zones. It’s a struggle for me to do things efficiently because my food is grown on a completely different property right now, but it is also a cash crop. I treat the barn like Zone 1, and the small pond is right by it. The ducks will utilize that and provide me with compost. The compost pile is on the other side of the barn, but we got an old fridge that will act as a large insulated vermicomposting bin inside the barn. The barn also has the one water source so everything branches off from that. Even though I don’t own it and have to drive there, I still find that having an understanding of the zones is so valuable.
How many people have a little greenhouse at the back end of the property where it gets all forgotten, stinky compost by their back door, and an apple tree causing problems against the side of the house? These are terrible design flaws that can be easily fixed if the simple zone system is followed.
So now that you understand the zones, how does that affect your project or inspire a new one?
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